Stephen Fuller *** Poetry, Essays

The Day Halloween Costumed as White Christmas, analysis and revision

Often when on walks I reach a point of clarity when an image, an idea, or a sentence hits me maybe as a melody hits a musician and I start to riff in my head on that note until the conscious brain reaches back into some subconscious place and writes. Compelled to capture the thoughts, I take out my phone, open the notes application and begin. (Yes, while walking, often in the street… don’t try this at home, I think I should add?).

Sometimes these poetic sketches are something worth sharing, and so it was this Halloween when we got a very unusual snow storm and the image of Halloween dressed up as White Christmas struck me. So I wrote this sketch about seeing my breath, one of the marvels of my childhood standing at the bus stop on Morgan Way. I captured stray thoughts about Harry Potter and Santa Clause and just let the riff take form:

The Day Halloween Costumed as White Christmas

I went walking.

And I found it,
As expected,
My breath.

Alone on a dark road
Underneath stars that need
Not be counted but
Just need wander here
Into my hand
Where for just this moment
I find them
Like a witch on his broom
Seeking the Golden Snitch
Sees his frosted breath
or Santa in his sleigh
The moment his deer fly
Sees his frosted breath
Becoming All…
All that was meant to be in that one
Tiny bit of space miles and miles from
Any star that needn’t be counted.

I see my
Frosted breath

In this poem are familiar tropes for me, such as stars that cannot be counted and the idea that they are telling their myths to us rather than the other way around. The poem felt complete enough to share and so I threw it out to the world, first on my private Instagram account and then as the second poem here at Fullbeard Lit. I did not like it enough, however, especially the more I read it. What was it about? What new thing was I trying to say? I began a basic crafting of the poem, pulling it apart to find those answers and I ended up with another poem too similar in theme and intent as last week’s The Road Taken, only a far less satisfying version of it.

One thing stood out, the image of The Frosted Breath. So I dug into the words again. This time rearranging them into four line stanzas and creating a refrain around the frosted breath. But I was still not satisfied with the poem, having not found the answer to what it was about. Furthermore, I wanted to craft the poem out of the autobiographical into something different.

At this point I thought of telling the poem from Harry Potter’s frame of reference. But where would I enter that canon not knowing it well enough to find purchase for my new idea? Thus began The Great Harry Potter re-watch of 2019. The conclusion of the powerful fifth movie, The Order of the Phoenix, gave me the seed I needed and in the margins of a journal I had in hand, I began to write a new poem, recalling as much as a I could from the original. A few edits later and I had a poem that mixes up the Potter mythology (purists be kind) but gets at the heart of what the books and movies mean to me:

The Boy Who Lives

Shattered glass becomes dust like snow when through
The shield love bloomed shards fly into their demise.
The trick, Halloween dressed up as a White Christmas.

On the dark floor awaiting stars arrival in their hearths
I curl and refabricate my myths to cast out old voices,
Old stories that connect me to the thing I cannot name,

Because inside all of these, my dark shades that flourish,
These nightmares, are stars that cannot be counted as
They descend here spinning to make time to save me

Part of my breath, my frosted breath like a soul’s bead
Drawn out for stealing until the stag dances on the lake,
Until I see among these stars, the myths most trusted.

The original revision remained with its own unique voice and ideas and stuck with me. Then today during my daily poetry reading three separate poems spoke back to this and helped me find that meaning I had been looking for earlier. The first stanza draws from John Chipman Farrar’s 1918 poem “Yet More Than This” found in Carl Phillips anthology of Yale Younger Poets, Firsts: “Have you sought beauty where night mystifies/The loves and laughter of the cool closed flowers?” The second stanza, from Robert Frost’s “Stars” in The Boy’s Will from 1913: “And yet with neither love nor hate/Those stars like some snow-white/Minerva’s snow-white marble eyes/Without the gift of sight.” Finally, the last stanza from Rilke’s ‘My life is not this steep hour…’ from Snow’s 2009 translation of the 1905 collection Book of Hours: “But in their dark interval the two meet,/embrace again, and tremble.//And the beautiful song goes on.” With something to echo from the past as Harold Bloom might encourage in his seminal work, The Anxiety of Influence, this third poem emerged:

Frosted Breath

The day Halloween dressed up as White Christmas
On a walk to seek beauty where night mystifies
Love laughing at cold closed flowers, early snow
A trick as much a treat given the bell nature rings.

There, I found it, my frosted breath.

Alone, the dark road underneath, neither love nor
Hate, like the stars, needed counting, I wandered
Into my myths, woven by Minerva, this celestial field,
She, her white eyes like marbles, blind to my songs.

There, I found it, my frosted breath.

As there in my tiny bit of space in this dark interval
From stars that needn’t be counted, discover a love,
All that was meant to be, become and take my flight
The day Halloween dressed up as White Christmas.

I guess I will have to wait until Christmas to see if a fourth emerges celebrating the right jolly ol’ elf from the North Pole. Next week I will take a look at My Little Wren Friend.

3 Responses to “The Day Halloween Costumed as White Christmas, analysis and revision”

  1. -Eugenia

    I appreciate that you analyze your own poems and I’ve enjoyed learning about your thought process in writing them. “My Little Wren Friend” is one of my favorites! Thank you for following BrewNSpew.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • S Francis

      I tried this idea on SailorPoet, but like much of what I did in that “era” of my poetry blogging it was too big a bite of the elephant. This approach feels more manageable and in fact more fun for me. It also meets my intent with blogging – getting at the heart of the art and craft of writing. I hope you continue to enjoy this process and evangelize for me! LOL!

      My Little Wren Friend will be this weeks analysis… I do hope you enjoy it… it will be a little bit more personal as the poem is largely complete in my own head so less revision. But the poem is significant.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: